Information

Information is an abstract concept that refers to that which has the power to inform. At the most fundamental level information pertains to the interpretation of that which may be sensed. Any natural process that is not completely random, and any observable pattern in any medium can be said to convey some amount of information. Whereas digital signals and other data use discrete signs to convey information, other phenomena and artifacts such as analog signals, poems, pictures, music or other sounds, and currents convey information in a more continuous form.[1] Information is not knowledge itself, but the meaning that may be derived from a representation through interpretation.[2]

Information is often processed iteratively: Data available at one step are processed into information to be interpreted and processed at the next step. For example, in written text each symbol or letter conveys information relevant to the word it is part of, each word conveys information relevant to the phrase it is part of, each phrase conveys information relevant to the sentence it is part of, and so on until at the final step information is interpreted and becomes knowledge in a given domain. In a digital signal bits may be interpreted into the symbols, letters, numbers, or structures that convey the information available at the next level up. The key characteristic of information is that it is subject to interpretation and processing.

The concept of information is relevant in various contexts,[3] including those of constraint, communication, control, data, form, education, knowledge, meaning, understanding, mental stimuli, pattern, perception, proposition, representation, and entropy.

The derivation of information from a signal or message may be thought of as the resolution of ambiguity or uncertainty that arises during the interpretation of patterns within the signal or message.[4]

Information may be structured as data. Redundant data can be compressed up to an optimal size, which is the theoretical limit of compression.

The information available through a collection of data may be derived by analysis. For example, data may be collected from a single customer's order at a restaurant. The information available from many orders may be analyzed, and then becomes knowledge that is put to use when the business subsequently is able to identify the most popular or least popular dish.[5]

Information can be transmitted in time, via data storage, and space, via communication and telecommunication.[6] Information is expressed either as the content of a message or through direct or indirect observation. That which is perceived can be construed as a message in its own right, and in that sense, all information is always conveyed as the content of a message.

Information can be encoded into various forms for transmission and interpretation (for example, information may be encoded into a sequence of signs, or transmitted via a signal). It can also be encrypted for safe storage and communication.

The uncertainty of an event is measured by its probability of occurrence. Uncertainty is inversely proportional to the probability of occurrence. Information theory takes advantage of this by concluding that more uncertain events require more information to resolve their uncertainty. The bit is a typical unit of information. It is 'that which reduces uncertainty by half'.[7] Other units such as the nat may be used. For example, the information encoded in one "fair" coin flip is log2(2/1) = 1 bit, and in two fair coin flips is log2(4/1) = 2 bits. A 2011 Science article estimated that 97% of technologically stored information was already in digital bits in 2007, and that the year 2002 was the beginning of the digital age for information storage (with digital storage capacity bypassing analog for the first time).[8]


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